With climate change, the Arctic tundra is likely to become drier. Lakes may shrink in size and smaller lakes may even disappear according to a new Dartmouth study.
With climate change, the Arctic tundra is likely to become drier. Lakes may shrink in size and smaller lakes may even disappear according to a new Dartmouth study. In western Greenland, Kangerlussuaq experienced a 28 percent decrease in the number of smaller lakes (those less than 10,000 square meters) and a 20 percent decrease in total area from 1969 to 2017. Many of the lakes that had disappeared in 1969 have since become vegetated. The findings are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.
“Lake drying may be one of the most significant consequences of Arctic climate change given that the majority of the world’s lakes are in high latitudes,” explained lead author Rebecca Finger Higgens, a graduate student in the ecology, evolution, ecosystems and society program at Dartmouth. “Much of the drying of lakes in Kangerlussuaq has been occurring from 1985 until now, a period during which we’ve also seen a 2.5 Celsius increase in the mean annual temperature. Our results demonstrate that warmer temperatures in western Greenland over the past 30 years have accelerated lake decline,” she added.
Finger Higgens first noticed that the Arctic landscape seemed to be getting drier in 2015 while doing fieldwork outside of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. From 2015 to 2017, she served as a Joint Science Education Program (JSEP) graduate fellow during which she spent over six months conducting research in Kangerlussuaq. She started compiling collections of satellite and aerial imagery of lakes in Greenland gathered in the 1960s and 1980s and weather data to track changes over time.
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